Mary Barra confident in GM’s self-driving vehicle tech and goal to beat Tesla in EVs
General Motors is an American brand that needs no introduction. As a legacy automaker, GM was a tad slow to join the EV revolution or, at the very least, took a bit longer than some to get “everybody in.”
It’s hard not to argue that a huge factor in the decision to take a $35 billion gulp of the lithium ion Kool-Aid was to gain some market share back from Tesla, which has been donning the crown as America’s EV darling for over a decade now.
Following a tumultuous end to 2021 following a massive recall on the Bolt, GM’s EV delivery numbers were downright abysmal, despite brave contributions by GMC to get one single Hummer EV pickup out into the world.
As the ball dropped at midnight on December 31, GM must have poured its champagne directly onto its maniacally scribbled slate from 2021 and wiped the entire thing clean. The automaker kicked off 2022 with so much exciting news, I was seeing Chevy Equinox EVs hurdling fences when I closed my eyes at night.
Revamped production facilities, new US battery cell factories, and a slew of new BEV models were just some of the headlines that followed as GM continues to work toward its promise of delivering 20 new EVs by 2023 and accelerate its EV production capacity to over 1 million units by 2025.
That’s not all either. GM’s CEO Mary Barra has stated several times that the American automaker strives to be the name to beat in autos again and has had its sights set on Tesla for quite some time now.
GM’s EV transition finally appears to be holding a steady charge, despite global supply chain issues, but can the automaker overtake Tesla in EV production? What about self-driving EVs?
GM remains confident it can overtake Tesla in EV production
According to GM CEO Mary Barra’s comments in recent interviews with Fox Business, the Tesla logo remains the target on the office dartboard. During an interview on The Claman Countdown, Barra spoke to the tremendous demand for GM EVs across all its brands, as well as the company’s growth despite supply chain constraints:
Frankly, since the beginning of COVID, the supply has been stretched pretty thin, so I’m very proud of what we’re able to do. We’re seeing an improvement with semiconductors and that’s allowing us to make more and more vehicles.
According to Barra, one of the two previously announced US battery factories will open in “a matter of weeks” in Ohio, allowing GM to ramp up production of even more EVs. US battery production could also prove fruitful to the automaker and consumers alike, as GM can sell its customers on federal tax credits for certain US-built EVs based on new terms signed under the recent Inflation Reduction Act.
GM will need all the production capacity it can get to catch up with Tesla, who delivered nearly 255,000 EVs in Q2 of 2022 alone. For comparison, GM delivered about 7,200 EVs in Q2. Still, Barra doesn’t seem to be flinching. During the interview, the GM CEO reiterated confidence that the company can pass Tesla in EV production, without providing a specific timeline yet. In the past, Barra has said by 2025, but that might have changed.
It may not happen by 2025, but it’s certainly still possible. By introducing all-electric versions of the Chevy Silverado, Blazer SUV, and Equinox compact SUV, GM is throwing three ponies into the race that already have street cred thanks to their gasoline-powered predecessors.
If a fraction of combustion-GM drivers transition to the electric versions, the demand will be deafening. Furthermore, if GM can in fact pivot its production infrastructure to meet that demand, well, we may witness one helluva battle against Tesla.
Let’s not forget about Ford either! The next five years of American EV production are going to be a sight to see.
Could GM win the self-driving race too?
GM is pouring billions of dollars into its current facilities to embrace electrification and surpass Tesla, but what about a competition where the American automaker has had less of a head start in terms of infrastructure?
Unlike her comments on EV production, Mary Barra has not come right out and said GM wants to beat Tesla in self-driving tech, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. The team at GM subsidiary Cruise has been operating fully-driverless rides in San Francisco since fall of 2021, logging tens of thousands of miles across several hundred trips. Barra spoke to the company’s progress:
I’m really impressed and pleased with the progress Cruise has made under Kyle Vogt’s (CEO) leadership from the technology being ready. You know, I think a couple years ago, everybody thought they’ll be autonomous vehicles everywhere, know they think it’s years away. It’s not. It’s here right now.
Barra would go on to to discuss how she believes autonomous vehicles like the GM vehicles used by Cruise are the future of how people get around due to their advanced safety and lack of human error – a factor Barra states accounts for 90% of all automobile accidents.
On the flip side, autonomous vehicles are consistently dragged through the muck by the media for their occasional accidents. Tesla itself has been consistently clouded in controversy surrounding its full-self driving technology. One, because CEO Elon Musk could be hired by an NFL team based on the number of times he’s punted the arrival date of Level 4, fully-autonomous driving.
But the automaker has also faced class action lawsuits on top of unfair smear campaigns that not only lack credibility but do a lot more harm to proper EV education than many realize. Telling your beta testers not to complain about your software doesn’t help either, though.
We’re not here to say GM will overtake Tesla in EV production and/or self-driving technology. However, we do want to point out that the former is gaining momentum and has the money to back up its bold words. Tesla’s no spring chicken in the EV world either and will certainly not go down without a fight.
No matter who eventually takes the production throne, we as consumers should end up the true winners, as we will get to experience much of the innovation this healthy competition will birth.
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